A little Christmas for everyone – Branson Board gives airport hundreds of thousands as it raises residents water and sewer rates

At the November 25th meeting of the Branson Board of Aldermen (BOA), they voted to give the Branson Airport the Christmas gift that keeps giving. That would be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars on an alleged 2006 “contract” based on a “Pay for Performance Agreement (PfP).” The PfP was made by the “pre 2007 election city administrator and the loyal band of elected “munchkins,” whoops sorry forgot it was Christmas, “elves,” with the Branson Airport.

Interestingly, during the period of 2006 to the present and with up to 14.5 percent more to come, the citizens and residents of Branson have seen their water rates go up 23.5 per cent and their sewer rates jump up a phenomenal 70 per cent with at least 10 percent more to come. (Hey, if you don’t want to read the whole thing, and it’s a little long this week, just go to the last paragraph.)

Prior to the November 25th meeting of the Branson Board of Aldermen (BOA), the Ole Seagull, in writing about the millions of dollars the city would pay if they continued making payments under the alleged “contract, ” wrote, “It’s all about the process, it makes not one iota of difference what an Ole Seagull believes at this point because the process leading up to the decision was fair, public, and everyone had an opportunity for input. The result of that process ‘is what it is.'”

Indeed he went on to say, “The Ole Seagull’s beloved wife, Lois, once said, ‘Honey if you are the only one in the world that is sane that makes you the crazy one.’ Using that logic, in the case of the PfP, the Ole Seagull has to be the ‘crazy one.'” After the November 25th meeting, which the Ole Seagull believes could aptly be named the “Steve Peet and Chris Jordon Branson Airport, Pizza, Burritto Dog and Pony Show,” the Ole Seagull will have to say to his wife, “I guess I am the crazy one” and proceed on with his opinion.

Difference between a “Contact” and “Agreement.”

A “contract” is generally held to be “an agreement between parties that is legally enforceable. A simple ‘agreement’ is an arrangement between the parties which may or may not contain the necessary elements to be enforceable before a court of law.” As to the 2006 “Pay for Performance Agreement,” an Ole Seagull would bet his feathers that it was an agreement that was not legally enforceable for, among other reasons, it was a gift from the city to a private party, the airport, of up to $2 million per year for 30 years in the form of $8.24 per person who gets off an airplane at the airport; was payable to a party they could not legally pay the money to under the terms of the contract and the airport provided no legal consideration in return for the city’s payments.

Even if it’s a “contract” is the city in violation of that contract if they don’t pay?

No. Contracts have conditions and one of the conditions the PfP Agreement is that it was “Subject to the annual appropriation of the Board.” It’s very straight forward and simple, the funds for a given year can only be paid if they are appropriated.”Wait Seagull, are you saying that the airport could bring in 10,000 passengers and the city does not have to pay the airport $82,400 unless the money has been appropriated even if the city has the money to pay it?” “No, in spite of what Peet and others say, that’s what the PfP says.

Has the city ever been in default of a contract because of the appropriations provision?

At the November 25th meeting, Jordon asked City Administrator Dean Kruithof “Have we ever defaulted on any contract in the city based on appropriations?” Kruithof said, “Not that I am aware of.”

What if the question had been “Has the city ever not paid a contract using the appropriations provision?

For what it’s worth the Ole Seagull believes that the answer would have been the same. He bases that on the fact that normally it is a standard provision of an enforceable contract when the city is dealing with an established business to furnish specific goods and services.

What would Kruithof have said if asked, “Have you ever seen a city enter into an agreement like this one?

Based on a recent telephone conversation with Kruithof, an Ole Seagull would bet he’d say that in all his years as a city administrator and based on conversations with his counterparts and others neither he or them has ever seen an agreement like this one.

The city gets much more than $8.24 per person from everyone that comes to Branson so the airport deal is a “win win for everyone?”

If you really believe that, let’s pay everyone in town $8.24 cents per person for everyone who walks out from their show, attraction, hotel, or business because that’s what the airport gets, $8.24 per passenger getting out of one of their planes except for those who boarded locally. Both Peet and Jordon made big deal out of that with a lot of the rest of the crowd just clapping away. One can only wonder if, as of the date of the meeting they, any of the other speakers or any board member had seen any statistics supporting how many of the passengers disembarking at the Branson Airport were new Branson visitors, visitors who had previously been to Branson or visitors who would not have come to Branson, but for the airport?

Isn’t it a win win for everyone?

No, it’s a win for the airport investors. Peet said the reason he is involved is because he loves deals where everybody wins and “in my opinion, this is one of those kind of deals. Branson airport is very unique in that way. If we are successful, we being the airport, there are no losers. If we’re not successful there is one loser. The loser is going to be myself and my investor group.

“Well Mr. Peet, welcome to Branson because that’s the way it is for everyone.” Every show, attraction, restaurant, hotel, retail store etc. could say the same thing, “If they’re successful there are no losers. If they’re not successful there is one loser. The loser is going to themselves and their investors.” The big difference is that they don’t get up to $2 million per year from the city to help fund their business operations.

But isn’t the city honor bound to pay the agreement?

Are we nuts! How many of you knew that the widely publicized, first privately financed and operated airport in the nation was in fact being “underwritten” by up to $60 million dollars in tax payer financing from the city of Branson until this budget flap? How many of those at the meeting or anyone else for that matter knew that the airport tried to get Taney Country to submit to a PfP Agreement or pay tens of thousands in security and marketing costs?

Did the sophisticated people who brought the airport bonds fail to read the notice that was printed twice in the prospectus “However, the actual appropriation of such funds is subject to approval by the governing body of the City each year the Pay for Performance Agreement is in place, and there can be no assurance that future governing bodies will appropriate such funds.” Where’s the honor, when Peet reading from the alleged contract at the November 9 meeting of the board read only those appropriation provisions he believed supported his position and omitted the standard appropriation provision and the verbiage in the prospectus mentioned above from his presentation?

In an Ole Seagull’s opinion the agreement was not honorable or legal at its inception and what has transpired under the leadership of our current Board in attempting to “launder” the agreement and payments makes it even less honorable. The sad part is that as ill-conceived, illogical, and dishonorable as the agreement is, as in the past, it is the taxpaying residents and businesses that will pay for it one way or the other.

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